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Benny Benson
American boy who designed the Alaska state flag, winning a 1926 contest

Benny Benson

Benny Benson
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American boy who designed the Alaska state flag, winning a 1926 contest
A.K.A. John Ben Benson Jr., Jon Ben Benny Benson, John Bell Benny Benson
Was Designer
From United States of America
Field Arts Creativity
Gender male
Birth 12 October 1913, Chignik, Lake and Peninsula Borough, Alaska, USA
Death 2 July 1972, Kodiak, Kodiak Island Borough, Alaska, USA (aged 58 years)
Star sign Libra
Notable Works
Flag of Alaska  
Benny Benson
The details (from wikipedia)

Biography

Benny and Carl's cubby-holes still exist in the former Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska.
Benny Benson Memorial at mile 1.4 (km 2.3) of the Seward Highway in Seward, Alaska

John Ben "Benny" Benson Jr. (October 12, 1913 – July 2, 1972) was an Alaska native who is well-known for designing the flag of Alaska. Benny was age 13 years old when he won a contest in 1927 to design the flag for the Territory of Alaska, which became a U.S. state on January 3, 1959.

Life

Early life

John Ben Benson Jr. was born in Chignik, Territory of Alaska, on October 12, 1913. He was an Alutiiq (aka "Sugpiaq", aka "Aleut") born to a Swedish-American father, John Ben "Benny" Benson Sr., and Alutiiq-Russian mother, Tatiana Schebolein. When he was three years old, his mother died, forcing his father to send him and his brother Carl to an orphanage, as Benny's father could not take care of them. Benny grew up at the Jesse Lee Home for Children in Unalaska and later in Seward.

Fox Farm

After graduating from college in 1932, Benny left the Jesse Lee Home. He returned to the Aleutian Islands to work with his father fishing and, for a time, trapping blue foxes on Chirikof Island and on John's privately own Ugaiushak Island. The rate for furs began to decline, so Benny moved to Seattle in 1936. He used the $1,000 prize from the flag design competition to enroll in the Hemphill Diesel Engineering School for Diesel engine repair. In 1938, Benson married Betty Van Hise. The couple's first child, Anna May, was born in October 1938. Their second daughter, Charlotte Abbot, was born in June 1940. Benson divorced in 1950 and moved with his daughters to Kodiak where he became an airplane mechanic for Kodiak Airways.

Later years and death

Benny met his sister in the mid 1950s, 30 years after their separation. His sister died soon after. His brother Carl also died in 1965. Benson's right leg had to be amputated in 1969 due to circulatory problems. Shortly after that, in 1972, he met and married a former Jesse Lee Home resident, Anna Sophie Jenks. Benson had several stepchildren and grandchildren. He died of a heart attack in Kodiak, Alaska, on July 2 of that year, at the age of 58 years old.

Flag design

32 years before Alaska was to become a state, the Alaska Department of the American Legion sponsored a territorial contest for Alaskan children from seventh grade (12–13 year old students) to twelfth grade (17–18 year old students). Benny's design was chosen to represent the future of the Alaska Territory. Up to that time, Alaskans had flown only the U.S. flag since the territory was purchased from Russia in 1867. His design was chosen over roughly 700 other submissions from schoolchildren territory-wide in grades 7 to 12. Most other entries featured variations on the territorial seal, the midnight sun, the northern lights, polar bears, and/or gold pans. For his achievement, Benny was awarded $1,000, an engraved watch and a trip to Washington, D.C.

Benny looked to the sky for the symbols he included in his design. Choosing the familiar asterism he looked for every night before going to sleep at the orphanage, he submitted this description with it:

The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaskan flower. The North Star is for the future state of Alaska, the most northerly in the union. The Dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.

Legacy

  • Mount Benson, a prominent mountain overlooking Seward, was named after him in 1974.
  • Benson Boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare in midtown Anchorage, was built in the 1970s and named for him.
  • Benny Benson Memorial is located at Mile 1.4 of the Seward Highway in Seward, Alaska.
  • On April 11, 2013, in honor of his centenary, the Alaska Legislature passed SB31, which named the airport in Kodiak "Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport."
  • Benny Benson School in Anchorage on Campbell Airstrip Road is an alternative school serving the educational needs of students who have been deemed at risk and is part of the Anchorage School District SEARCH program.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 28 Oct 2021. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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